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Monsters From The Id · 2000 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

On Annemarie Bridy’s Freedom-to-Tinker post Copyrights, Fundamental Rights, and the Constitution a commenter by the name of Mike Lippert seems to think I am claiming that copyright is a natural right.

“Copyrights (and patents) seem clearly legal rights created and enforced by government, not natural rights”


It’s good that you, me, and the judiciary recognise and accept that copyright (viz Statute of Anne 1709/1790 onwards) is a privilege created/granted by the state, to be enforced/prosecuted by the holder (albeit relatively recently augmented by state assistance thanks to concerted lobbying), at the holder’s pleasure.

The Constitution empowers Congress to secure the author’s (already existing/natural) exclusive right to their writings. It does not empower Congress to grant a privilege.

If the author already has a right, it’s a right they’re born with – not a ‘legally created right’ granted to them, or one they purchased/inherited/received from another author.

I have not actually equated common law rights with natural rights. However, it would be interesting to enumerate those common law rights that can be distinguished from natural rights, and to analyse precisely how common law is not simply an evolving codification of natural law. But, I digress.

By “aka natural right”, I suggested that Madison, in saying that copyright had been solemnly adjudged to be a common law right, intended his audience to understand that copyright was a natural right (inherent/innate to the author) that, by the proposed clause, Congress should therefore be empowered to secure.

If it wasn’t a common law right, and just another state granted privilege (such as a monopoly or Letters of Marque), then Congress would have to be empowered to grant it – not just empowered to secure a pre-existing right.

Remember, that while copyright/SoA was not unfamiliar to The Framers (or various states’ legislatures), the Constitution could not admit the existence of privileges already granted – in the new or old world. This is why Madison had to suggest that copyright wasn’t a privilege – in order that when he legislated the Statute of Anne as the 1790 US copyright act, people had already been primed to recognise this as law that ‘secures a common law right’ (though it is of course nothing of the sort, but the granting of a monopoly for the benefit of press & state).

The point is, the clause doesn’t actually empower the granting of copyright or patent, despite enabling Madison’s subsequent granting of those monopolies to proceed with little or no protest. We thus have the granting of the monopolies we call copyright and patent as a fait accompli, and today monopoly-loving lawyers bend over backwards to convince everyone that Congress, of course, had the power to grant these monopolies.

It’s all rather academic really. As Annemarie observes, the power of Congress is no longer limited by The Constitution, or at least, by strict readings of it.

James ‘Dr Frankenstein’ Madison chose to unleash Queen Anne’s ‘creatures of statute’ upon the American people, and now they roam the entire planet like Monsters from the Id.

Julián Landerreche said 1999 days ago :

The phrase “to secure the author’s (already existing/natural) exclusive right to their writings” isn’t just a very particular case of “to secure the owner’s (already existing/natural) exclusive right to their belongings”?

Reading that phrase, it’s easy to get confused by the wording (and years of indoctrination) and assume that the “exclusive right to their writings” means something else, like a supernatural power to control what others can do with the copies of his writings.

It says nothing about what others can do with their copies of an author’s writings, which brings me back to the generalization of that particular phrase: “to secure the author’s/owner’s exclusive right to their writings/belongings”.

The issue on that phrase seems to boils down to a misunderstanding of what copyright supporters and freedom supporters interpret as “exclusive rights”.

Crosbie Fitch said 1999 days ago :

Yes Julián, the author clearly has a natural (common law) right to exclude others from their writings.

Per Wheaton v Peters

while the common law undoubtedly protected the right to one’s unpublished writings — e.g. a diary, personal letters

This is why Madison primed his audience to understand the clause as empowering Congress to secure a natural right (by saying that copyright had been adjudged as a common law right), because securing the individual’s (natural) rights was the whole point of instituting a government in the first place.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

So, per the Constitution, Congress has power to secure the author’s exclusive right to their writings, and on the same basis, the inventor’s exclusive right to their designs, but not to grant transferable reproduction/manufacturing monopolies (for immortal corporations to consequently amass into an arsenal). Copyright (nor patent) does not secure a natural (aka common law) right, despite Madison saying copyright (& patent) had been adjudged to be a common law right.

Today, copyright is described as an ‘exclusive right’ precisely in order to hoodwink people into believing it to be the right that the Constitution empowered Congress to secure. But of course, the Constitution cannot empower Congress to secure a right that doesn’t already exist – only to secure one that does, or to grant a privilege (which would have been rejected by other Framers as antithetical).

Thus you will see lawyers carefully seguing from author’s exclusive right to copyright without actually declaring them to be the same thing. You can see Annemarie making statements about ‘Exclusive rights’ (in the sense of legislatively created ‘rights’) and then statements about ‘copyright’, but she didn’t actually say a) that copyright was the exclusive right the Constitution empowered Congress to secure, nor b) that copyright secured an author’s exclusive right to their writings.

It is amazing how many people think the progress clause clearly empowered Congress to grant/create copyright, even though, from Madison’s own explanation, the clause is intended only to empower Congress to secure an author’s common law right – because Madison knew that’s all the power he/Congress would need to legislate copyright/patent – because he’d already primed the other Framers with the understanding that copyright and patent were common law rights.

As Madison explains in Federalist #43

The copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great Britain, to be a right of common law. The right to useful inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors.

Hence Congress can secure common law rights – not grant monopolies – even though Madison knew copyright and patent weren’t common law rights and were obviously grants of monopoly.

While Madison may insinuate monopolies are common law rights to Framers en masse, when it comes to discussions with a conspirator, Jefferson, he reveals he knows precisely what he’s talking about, i.e. monopolies, and that they are privileges to be granted:

With regard to monopolies they are justly classed among the greatest nusances in Government. But is it clear that as encouragements to literary works and ingenious discoveries, they are not too valuable to be wholly renounced? Would it not suffice to reserve in all cases a right to the Public to abolish the privilege at a price to be specified in the grant of it?

Corruption from the start, that even Madison acknowledged, that thanks to his weakness, we enjoy today – cultural and technological gridlock.

Do You Believe In Faeries? · 2003 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Alexander Baker asks me if ‘intellectual objects’ are real (whatever he means by that).

Alexander, if by putting your faeries in a box you can exclude me from them, then go for it. I’m not really sure you possess any faeries though.

If you can sell me a box of faeries such we can both identify and count how many faeries are within, and we can both exclude others from the faeries in our respective boxes, then that sounds promising.

If we can add and remove faeries to and from boxes, such that several people (in a double blind test) count the same numbers of faeries in a set of boxes (containing differing numbers of faeries), then we’re pretty close to establishing the physical reality of faeries.

The trouble is, we need to distinguish between a ‘faerie’ (a piece of paper shaped like a faerie) and a faerie (a tiny winged humanoid creature, ethereal or otherwise).

You can substitute faerie with triangle, and similarly distinguish between the ‘triangle’ (drawing of) and the triangle (abstract concept). You can put drawings of abstractions in boxes, but you can’t put abstractions in boxes.

You can even substitute ‘intellectual object’, but again, you need to distinguish between its physical description and the imaginary abstraction.

If you reverse this process, you should see that you are effectively trying to argue that faeries are real, and that you believe in their existence.

That the concept of faeries has played a significant part in mankind’s culture is true, but this doesn’t make faeries real, nor property (copyright notwithstanding).

You can physically possess a physical description of an abstraction. You can imagine, but cannot physically possess an abstraction – though thanks to indoctrination by sacred state granted monopolies, many people like to imagine that they can and should be able to possess abstractions (they make do with ‘all physical manifestations thereof’, given the abstract plane is still inaccessible to them).

So, Alexander, do you believe in faeries?

Copyright Is Divine, So Trumps Nature? · 2004 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

The universe in which we live is real, purely physical, comprised of matter (arrangements of information) and information (arrangements of matter) in space. We produce physical works, comprising both matter and information, a material and intellectual component. We can put these works into physical boxes and physically exclude others from them. We can call those works property, because they are alienable and we naturally have the power to exclude others from them.

Being intelligent, we can think/imagine in terms of abstractions, and can conceive of a non-existent/abstract plane in which abstract ideas permeate. One might term this an ‘intellectual space’. However, if we start confusing the abstract with the real, and start believing that, despite a lack of physical power within the abstract plane, people have some kind of divine right to exclude others from the abstractions they ‘homestead’ within that abstract plane (or ‘intellectual space’) then we join the ranks of what can be termed ‘religious nutters’.

Monopoly is Property; The Motion is Perpetual · 2007 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

In Discussion with a Pro-Intellectual Property Libertarian Stephan Kinsella fails to convince Alexander Baker that he is not on the verge of discovering a brilliant, incontrovertible argument that state granted monopolies constitute natural property.

This is what happens when people are brought up in a world permeated by quasi-religious copyright/patent dogma that transforms ‘state granted monopoly’ into ‘god-given right’. People will dutifully waste their time trying to find ways of arguing the ‘truth’ they have received.

But, if each of us spends a tiny amount of time pointing out to such folk that the law arises from the nature of the people, not vice versa, perhaps such time is well spent?

So this is my tiny amount of time…

…and when the tide of liberty arose about King ©anute’s throne, his courtiers desperately finessed their arguments, that what they were observing was merely a predictable surge, that it would obviously have to occur in the process of obeisance to the king’s command.

When you’ve completed the finessing of your argument, Alexander, we can try it out on the people. I daresay it’ll have a lot of support from those espousing greater respect for copyright, but it’s those pesky delinquent masses you have to convince.

Property is that which one can put in a box, or erect a fence around, that which an individual has a natural and vital power (right) to exclude others from. This is where the law comes from.

Rights and property do not come from the law – however much those desperate to perpetuate state granted monopolies by other means finesse the law’s definitions of property.

That said, if you say that state granted monopolies are recognitions of property in ideas/designs/patterns long enough, you will fool many people into believing that because the protection of property is recognised as a human right so the protection of ‘property’ in ideas must be recognised as a human right.

If you corrupt the language you can corrupt anything, but it still doesn’t change human nature.

You can annul the right to copy from the law, but this does not remove the right to copy from the people.

King ©anute cannot hold back the tide of his subjects’ liberty – however brilliant the legal minds of his courtiers may be.

Property Comes From Nature Not Praxeology · 2011 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Marc Clair has had Thoughts on the Great IP Debate and re-iterates Stephan Kinsella’s claim that “there is a general consensus among libertarians that intellectual property is an illegitimate concept”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an illegitimate concept. What matters is whether property in intellectual works naturally exists – as property in material works naturally exists.

Cavemen didn’t argue with each other as to whether flint stones were scarce or not. Property in their physical possessions was a natural epiphenomenon, not something that, through praxeological debate, cavemen concluded to be a legitimate concept.

If an author has written a manuscript and keeps it in their desk drawer, it’s as much their physical property as a caveman’s flint axe. In 1787 every author instinctively knew that they had an exclusive right to their writings – a natural right to exclude any other, not only from making off with the ink & paper, but also from manufacturing a copy.

What authors may not have realised was that James Madison wasn’t interested in the author’s exclusive right to their writings, but in the lucrative monopolies enjoyed by the British Press at Queen Anne’s pleasure. That is why he suggested copyright was a common law right, and why the first US copyright act was almost identical to the Statute of Anne. But, as we know, the author’s natural right to exclude others from their writings is not at all the same as the grant of a monopoly that annuls the people’s liberty and right to copy (to leave it, by exclusion, in the hands of a few – copyright holders).

The information age doesn’t demonstrate that intellectual property doesn’t exist. It demonstrates that reproduction monopolies in the ‘hands’ of a few corporations cannot co-exist with reproduction technologies in the hands of the people (having a natural liberty and imperative to share and build upon each other’s works).

Authors can, and will always be able to, lock up their manuscripts as their intellectual property, but they cannot, and never could, give their manuscripts to another and alienate from the recipient their liberty to copy them.

Also see my comments on Kinsella’s Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property.

Where Do Property Rights Come From? · 2015 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

As I replied to Stephen in the comments to Stephan Kinsella’s Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property:

That which exists is rivalrous. That which does not exist is non-rivalrous. So what?

As with seawater, air is also something you can put in a bottle and exclude others from (ask a scuba diver). Just because there’s a lot of it, it doesn’t mean it’s non-scarce (in the economic meaning, if not the layman’s meaning) or non-rivalrous.

The point is not whether the rivalrous nature of things that exist is interesting or useful to observe, but that it doesn’t actually justify or explain anything concerning property.

No other animal has ever been interested in excluding others from things that don’t exist. It takes extreme intelligence and stupidity/superstition to start believing that one can – a peculiarly human talent. It is also rather crazy to develop esoteric terms/jargon to discriminate between things that exist and things that don’t, and to claim, tautologously, that because things that exist don’t have the nature of those that don’t, ipso facto we have property rights.

One could also use other terms such as ‘physically manifest’ or ‘enclosable’ instead of ‘exist’, but the good thing about ‘exist’ is that it helps people recognise the absurdity of claiming property in things that don’t exist. And yes, people then have to be reminded that although we may recognise that things that exist may be in the shape of a triangle, this does not mean that the triangle exists. Moreover, just because we can conceive of abstract objects such as triangles, this also doesn’t mean those abstract objects exist – nor does it mean that the abstract thing we call a concept (of a triangle) exists either, though again, we may recognise this concept in arrangements of ink on paper (the arrangement exists – the concept doesn’t).

So, yes, because human beings (as most animals) have a physical and vital ability to exclude others from things that exist, a power to exclude, they have a have a natural and equal right to do so. ‘Rights’ granted by gods, kings, or states, are obviously not natural. Hence the power to prohibit copies granted by Queen Anne in 1709, was only obtained by annulling the people’s natural liberty and right to make copies, such that this right, by exclusion, could be left in the hands of a few – so called ‘copyright’ holders.

A paper manuscript containing ink arranged into a description of a formula or novel can be kept in a box, and others can be excluded from both the material and the intellectual work therein. Others cannot be excluded from that which does not exist, e.g. the abstract pattern of that work that permeates the abstract plane – which is a rather perverse thought to have in the first place.

In other words, drawing a triangle does not give one any natural power over the abstraction or others’ use of it. Conversely, simply because one has no power over the abstraction or its use doesn’t mean one has no natural power to exclude others from one’s drawing. The drawing of the triangle exists. The geometric concept of a triangle does not.

That which exists may be property, but it isn’t property because it exists, but because we have the natural power and right to exclude others from those alienable objects that exist in our possession.

Marko said 1999 days ago :

This is a bit philosophical, but it could be argued that things may exist in realms other than physical. Mathematical truths (such as ideal triangles and concepts) may belong in ‘platonic’ world (also more recently suggested by Roger Penrose). Existence thus meaning that something is objectively “out there” for everyone to find out independently. For example, the same prime numbers can be be found by any man regardless of his predoctrination, even more, the aliens from another galaxy should have found the same prime numbers (as in Contact from Carl Sagan :) ). I think this is as objective as it gets, so one could say that such things in a sense do exist regardless of us drawing them on a piece of paper.

Of course, even if we agree on an existence of such a world, it is fundamentally different from physical and, it seems to me, property rights are completely irrelevant and of no value here.

Crosbie Fitch said 1999 days ago :

Well, quite. No physically living creature can have physical power, a natural right, in a non-physical plane – or ‘realm’ if you prefer.

However, concerning discussions of property, I think ‘exist’ can be used in its primary physical meaning, as opposed to a metaphorical/mathematical/abstract meaning, e.g. “No solutions for equation X exist”.

One cannot have property in things that don’t exist.

If someone claims that a certain abstraction is often said to ‘exist’, one can exclude that as a figure of speech used by mathematicians.

ABC - Abolition Befalls Copyright · 2053 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

A is for Abolition

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

We must abolish copyright.

This is a conclusion anyone can avoid coming to – if they covet copyright’s corrupting power to constrain all others.

B is for Building

Build upon my published work!

Build upon everyone’s published work. You are naturally at liberty to do so.

C is for Copying, not ©

Copy and communicate all published works, yours, mine, everyone’s – to the far corners of the earth.

D is for Derivatives

See Originality.

Nothing is new under the sun. Nothing is 100% original. Everything is derivative in some way. Mankind progresses by building upon what has been done before – through exploration and improvement. There is no wrong in this. Develop derivative works of your own, however similar or dissimilar to those you’ve been inspired by.

E is for Enjoyment

Enjoy your natural liberty. Enjoy your own culture. Enjoy sharing in it with your friends. Enjoy sharing it with everyone!

F is for Funding

Feel free to fund my further work if you fancy more. Feel free to fund any artist whose work you would have more of.

Pay others for what you cannot or would rather not do yourself. Pay artists for their art. Pay printers for prints. If you can make your own copies and prefer to, do so. Ignore any state granted monopolies that prohibit such liberty.

Liberty does not mean artists work for nothing, even if monopolists may not profit so much. Even so, it may sometimes be prudent to give your work away to promote yourself, to win fans, and future funding. Free as in free speech, not as in free beer.

Copying is not a crime, nor does it pilfer pennies from the pockets of the poor – except in the eyes of those who covet copyright.

G is for Gutenberg

Gutenberg started the printing revolution. The Internet put the revolution into hyperdrive.

18th century privileges designed to quell sedition and piracy are running on empty.

Project Gutenberg is helping to demonstrate that paying authors to write novels is not precluded by ending the practice of purchasing books from those privileged by a monopoly or paying them for permission to print copies.

Copyright is a brake on the wheel of the communications revolution. Only the corrupt few can profit from the energy they sap, even as so much progress is lost as a consequence.

Set us free. Set our culture free. See how much faster we go.

H is for Honesty

Honesty is a moral obligation.

While you are at liberty to use any published work as you see fit, such liberty naturally excludes dishonesty, e.g. misattribution or misrepresentation.

As credit is a gift, and citing sources is a mark of respect (though fraught with peril today as it risks inviting copyright litigation), so appropriate attribution is up to you. A lack of attribution is not a priori dishonest. You have no moral obligation to provide attribution, but neither deceive your audience, nor be so neglectful that you cause confusion in this respect.

Misrepresentation would be where you might use an artist’s work in a way such that others are likely to incorrectly infer the artist endorses a product or political point of view.

It is in this aspect that moral rights can be identified and enumerated. Unfortunately, they tend to be corrupted by copyright-based thinking into yet another set of proprietorial privileges. For example, your moral right to integrity is not the power to veto changes another artist may choose to make to your published work, but the other artist’s moral obligation not to misattribute the changes they are at liberty to make to your work as yours, or authorised by you. It is a matter of truth, not of power over others (granted by the state).

I is for Intellectual Property

Intellectual work may be property, but copyright is an unnatural monopoly.

The intellectual work contained within the unpublished manuscript in your desk drawer is undoubtedly your intellectual property, but if you sell or give it to someone, or a copy thereof, it becomes their property – even if it is not their work.

The reproduction monopoly arising in an ‘original’ work, granted by the state, that empowers the copyright holder to sue infringers, is unnatural, nothing to do with property (except in attempts to corrupt the term), and hence an unethical derogation of an individual’s liberty – to copy or communicate that which they’d otherwise be at liberty to.

J is for Justice

Justice is expected through the instrument of government, but its privileges are instruments of injustice.

Wikipedia: Human rights originate in Nature, thus, rights cannot be granted via political charter, because that implies that rights are legally revocable, hence, would be privileges:

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few… They… consequently are instruments of injustice … The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

K is for Kickstarter

Kickstarter and other such marketplaces enable artists to exchange their work for money, not a state granted reproduction monopoly for a pittance from a publisher plus their over-hyped possibility of the ‘lottery prize’ they call royalties.

These marketplaces will become more numerous, more sophisticated, and will represent a return to the pre-copyright method of funding. Instead of monopoly profits, a few patrons, or millions of fanatic micropatrons, or simply, fans, will offer funds in exchange for the artist’s art. Art for money, money for art.

It’s not simply ‘give it away & pray’, whether giving away your art to your fans, or giving away your money to your favourite musicians, but as in any market, it’s about coming to an agreement, an equitable exchange.

Don’t forget though, caveat emptor and caveat venditor still apply.

L is for Learning

Learn is from leornian – to tread in another’s footsteps, to copy another’s path.

But, as modern dogma has it, ever since Queen Anne first let slip the pretext that copyright would result in the Encouragement of Learning, we will be more encouraged to learn from each other because we are prohibited from copying each other.

The first question that should spring to mind is “What kind of law is it, that must be preceded by an unfalsifiable excuse?”. What other law, whether it be against theft, violence, kidnapping, or fraud, must have its enactment preceded by a claim that it will be for society’s benefit?

Even copyright’s fiercest critics still accept its pretext, that its purpose is philanthropic, and that the privilege may continue to be judged upon its mythical benefit to society, despite the fact that we have not witnessed the supposedly dystopian society that has long existed with printing, but without the alleged benefit of a privilege prohibiting piracy on its statute books.

How do we know we are benefiting from copyright if we’ve never known what our culture could have become without it? How does a slave know they are benefiting from their master’s care if they’ve never known what it’s like to find employment in a free market? It’s not a matter of benefit, alleged or imagined. People instinctively recognise the liberty they are born with, and are driven by the imperative to exercise it. If some want to pretend they must ask permission for their liberty, that a need to obtain such permission benefits them, then let them indulge in such a pretence, but do not let the state visit such injustice upon all.

If you look into copyright, if you dare question its pretext, then you should learn that its origins were entirely mercenary, in the interests of the state – and the press it would have beholden, and obedient to it.

That copyright encourages our learning, and feeds poor starving authors to so enlighten us, is a fairy tale once told by a wicked queen, and her successors for three successive centuries.

If we all dare admit the empress is naked, her empire ends.

M is for Monopoly

There are three notorious state granted monopolies: Copyright, patent, and trademark. Each monopoly differs somewhat in its concern and modus operandi, however, whilst some may claim they protect natural rights they are wholly unnatural, being unethical privileges enacted for the benefit of the state and the enrichment of those who lobby for them.

Copyright is not designed to help the individual author against the theft of their unpublished manuscript. It is a monopoly provided for the wealthy and powerful publisher to police the marketplace against competition (pirate printers). Contrary to dogma, it does not encourage learning.

Patent is not designed to help to the individual inventor against the theft of their unpublished invention. It is a monopoly provided for the wealthy and powerful manufacturer to police the marketplace against competition (especially foreign). Contrary to dogma, it does not encourage innovation.

Trademark is not designed to help the individual against passing off by unscrupulous competitors. It is a monopoly provided for the wealthy and powerful merchant to police the marketplace against competition (better value for money imitations). Contrary to dogma, it does not protect the public against fraud.

N is for the Nature of Rights

If copyright encourages anyone to do any learning, it’s learning about copyright, learning about its origins, learning the reasons for its injustice, learning about rights, what they are, where they come from, whether they can be granted, bought, sold, or taken away, and who by, e.g. gods, queens, governments, ourselves, mother nature, or accident, etc.

Thomas Paine has written about rights, as have others over the millennia preceding copyright. Obviously, those interested in continuing to enjoy copyright, ‘The Copyright Cartel’ we might call them, have also written about rights – in these last few centuries since 1709.

Depending upon whose writing you read, you will either learn that it is your human right to prevent others making unauthorised copies of your published work, or that it is a right granted by Queen Anne, that may be bought, sold, assigned, licensed, reserved, waived, or any manner of other things. You will also learn that copyright is a good thing, or that it is a bad thing, or even that it is a ‘necessary sacrifice’ for the greater good.

If you don’t want to risk shifting paradigms, and prefer the comfort of ignorance, then stick to the dogma you thus know and love. If you realise there are problems relating to copyright, and want to know whether those problems are with the people who disobey it or the privilege that is used to prosecute them, then learn on.

I’ve written about rights before, recently, and may well do so again soon.

O is for Originality

See Derivatives.

Thanks to copyright’s inculcation, originality may now be a common artistic aspiration, and something copyright lawyers will pretend happens every day, but it is unobtainable. The idea that it exists can be legislated, but then the law is an ass, made so by asses. Of course it shouldn’t be legislated, nor should we wish it to be.

Further reading: The Perfectly Acceptable Practice of Literary Theft: Plagiarism, Copyright, and the Eighteenth Century

P is for Privacy, not Piracy

Privacy is the root of property, and the only natural right an author has to exclude others from their work. One cannot both publish and remain proprietor. In other words, one cannot include AND exclude someone. You cannot tell someone something AND deny them their liberty to tell it to others – much as you might covet such a power.

Predictably, publishers pretending proprietorship will perforce pejoratively proclaim as pirates those folk who would enjoy their natural liberty to make and distribute copies or derivatives – contrary to the usurping proprietor’s presumption of propriety.

Daniel Defoe was there at the beginning of both copyright and piracy, and may even have some posthumous resonance at their ending: shipwrecked in a pirate bay, and naming a party of pirates campaigning to cease copyright’s punishment of individuals who engage in fileharing.

I refer of course, to The Pirate Bay, and The Pirate Party. These are harbinger’s of doom, both for the privilege of copyright, and the idea that those who ignore it are delinquent pirates.

Q is for Queen Anne

Queen Anne established the privilege we call copyright in 1709 – the root of all laws that prohibit one person from copying another. From 500,000BC to 1708AD, Homo Sapiens developed into a civilisation through copying, learning, and improving upon each other’s work. From 1709 onwards, we suffer the legacy of a legislative misadventure, a privilege that should have been abolished along with slavery, not one that should have been re-enacted in 1790 by a government supposedly created to secure its citizens’ liberty and the ending of monopolies (such as established by Britain’s Tea Act).

R is for Reform

Reforms of copyright are generally proposed by those engaged in doublethink – that it is possible to have a monopoly and cultural liberty.

One of the most popular kinds of reform is that of term reduction. This is presumably based on a supposition that if copyright only prohibited the copying of a work for a decade or so, as opposed to a century or so, that people would be more likely to respect the 18th century privilege, obeying it, than to disrespect it, ignoring it.

Piracy has occurred before, and where the state has realised copyright is too clumsy or ineffective (but never unjust), it has introduced compulsory licensing. There are those who suggest this applies to the Internet, and so a compulsory license fee (or mulct) should be levied upon all who use it, to be disbursed to poor starving artists (aka publishing corporations and collecting societies) according to the proliferation of their work. This idea for reform has not gained much ground because no-one has yet figured out how to accomplish it without making it easy for people to see that 99% of the mulct ends up in the pockets of corporations rather than individual artists. Further reading: The nature of intellectual property in the mid-twentieth century

There is, as it happens, one reform of copyright that does make it possible to have a monopoly and cultural liberty. This is where individuals (persons born with liberty) are exempt from copyright, but corporations (artificial entities unethically recognised as persons by law) are not exempt. So, human beings enjoy their natural right to liberty, and corporations enjoy the monopoly they so enthusiastically lobby for.

Generally, copyright reform is a conceptual trap, a means of lumping together those who’d abolish copyright, with those who’d change or replace it, with those who’d extend and enhance it. Reform is always on the cards. The state will get round to listening to people’s concerns in due course – invariably producing legislation that panders to the concerns of the incumbent powers, not those of the subject populace, e.g. The UK’s Digital Economy Act

If you campaign for copyright reform, at best you campaign for nothing, but the status quo, at worst, for the ratcheting up of that which concerns you. Obviously, if you support copyright, ‘best’ and ‘worst’ should be interchanged.

S is for Software Freedom

Software engineers, notably Richard Stallman and the copyleft movement, have helped demonstrate that copyright is socially counter-productive and uneconomic – however lucrative to the few monopolists in a position to exploit it.

Unfortunately, copyleft has also created a perverse dogmatism that the privilege of copyright is necessary for software freedom. I try to present the arguments against this misunderstanding in Copyleft Without Coercion.

T is for Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine provides a good understanding of natural rights, and helps explain why privileges that annul natural rights in the majority (such as our right to copy) in order to leave them, by exclusion, in the hands of a few (copyright holders), are consequently instruments of injustice.

Also see Thomas Edison’s commendation The Philosophy of Paine

Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, ‘the United States of America.’ But it is hardly strange. Paine’s teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind.

We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. The deeds of one in the Weld were matched by the deeds of the other with his pen.

U is for University

Universities are supposed to produce and disseminate mankind’s knowledge, not to hoard and guard it, martyring those who would disseminate it – such as Aaron Swartz.

Are you really sure copyright encourages our learning?

V is for Value, not Vendetta

Value is subjective, but don’t confuse the value of the work with the value of the copy. Artistic work is typically expensive and highly skilled. Copies are typically so inexpensive and easily produced that machines can make them by the million.

Pay artists to produce art. Pay printers to produce prints. But for your liberty to make your own copies, pay copyright holders nothing but contempt.

If someone has copied you (without dishonesty/plagiarism), or is selling copies of your work, they are promoting you and to be praised, not to be punished or otherwise persecuted – however much power to do so you imagine copyright says you deserve. Value the contributions of others, don’t be vindictive against them, nor wage vendettas against those the demon of copyright is persuading you are unfairly profiting from your hard work.

W is for Work

Work does not constitute entitlement to payment. One must find those who want the work done, who would pay for it. Being paid for your work is about finding an agreeable, equitable exchange in a free market. Your right is to be at liberty to do so, not to abridge the liberty of others to do so – who may be paid to add value to your work or build upon it.

X is for Xerox

Xerox marked the spot at which making one’s own copies became cheaper than buying them, the moment at which the fate of the 18th century reproduction monopoly became sealed.

Y is for You

You are naturally at liberty to copy – that which you have found, that which you have been given, or that which you have bought. Your natural imperative is to share and build upon your own culture – to ignore copyright. Your natural power and right to copy is in your own hands. That you have been fooled to believe it is instead in the hands of a copyright holder is within your power to remedy. You must snap out of this delusion.

Z is for Zygote

The zygote is a clue that copying and derivation is so much a part of nature that it is essential for the progress of life itself. To copy is in our genes. To copy is human.

That a prohibition on copying, the abridgement of our liberty, is necessary for mankind’s learning and progress, is the lie of all monopolists corrupted by power, from Queen Anne and James Madison to The Estate of Martin Luther King.

Whereas slavery takes all liberties from a few, copyright takes a few liberties from us all.

Learn about liberty, your liberty to learn through copying, your cultural liberty.

The abolition movement continues…

Marko said 2049 days ago :

As usually, delightful. Thanks.

Sharing "Sharing Culture" · 2096 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

For 500,000 years, we have shared and built upon our culture. Folk tales, folk song, folk lore, science, technology and the arts; these were all arrived at via free exchange of ideas, freely copying and improving upon each other’s…

Until, in 1709, Queen Anne re-instituted the monopolies the Stationers’ Company had become dependent on, but instead of making it a temporary, royal grant, she made it law, the law we now call copyright, and by so doing, she annulled mankind’s natural right to copy.

Our right to copy may no longer be recognised by law (save in vestigial form as ‘fair use’), but being innate, it remains within us. By nature, we all have the right and power to share and build upon our culture. It is our imperative to do so.

  • Our survival, mankind’s survival, our DNA’s survival depends upon the freedom to copy each other.

Don’t just take my word for it. John Baker has found other voices:

We are all gradually realising that we’ve been indoctrinated with a lie.

Copyright is not an artist’s right, it’s an unethical privilege granted for the benefit of the state (enjoying an enriched, and consequently beholden press).

The artist’s right is to copy.

The scientist’s right is to copy, to learn (from OE leornian, to tread in another’s footsteps, to copy another’s path), to improve mankind’s knowledge, and to share it, freely.

Your right is to copy.

Everyone’s right is to copy.

Sing each other song’s. Tell each other’s stories. Learn each other’s lore. Copy each other’s words. Share them. Build upon them. Don’t let the publishing corporations’ copyright lawyers make you feel ashamed for this ‘sin’, make you attempt to hide your sources. If you are flagrant in naming those you have copied, those who copy you will be flagrant in naming you.

It’s time to bring Queen Anne’s three hundred year old legacy of cultural repression to an end.

Matt Early said 2087 days ago :

The thing is, the only thing copyright is for is to stop it being stolen, not shared.

Today, to share, means to redistribute, correct?

But would it be OK for BMW to “share” a musicians work to sell one of its motors?

Crosbie Fitch said 2086 days ago :

Matt, there are two things copyright is for:

  1. to provide the press with highly profitable monopolies to which they would remain accustomed,
  2. to provide the state with a consequently beholden and obsequious press.

Illicitly making and distributing copies steals nothing except the potential profits a monopolist would like to imagine they could instead be making. This is ‘to steal’ in the same sense that a liberated slave is ‘stolen’ from their master by their liberator. Monopolies are abridgements of liberty. The exercise of this inalienable liberty is the individual’s right. The monopoly is the attempted theft of that which cannot be stolen.

As to advertising, as long as no dishonesty occurs (such as falsely implying an artist endorses the associated product or manufacturer), then it is just as ok to promote a perfume with Amanda Palmer’s music as it is ok with Puccini’s.

Fuck copyright.

Let them eat cake · 2108 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

In Brito: What’s Wrong With a Copyright Alert System? Stephan Kinsella wonders why so many critics of copyright can’t make the paradigm shift and realise that it is copyright that is the problem, not a mere few aspects of its legal implementation.

Even Stephan seems happy to accept a ‘scaled back’ implementation rather than insist on abolition, by which I suspect he’s still fixated on term reduction – “And this means copyright, which is the engine behind all these things, is wrong, and must fall, or at least be radically scaled back, not strengthened.”

Copyright annuls the people’s right to copy, to leave it, by exclusion, in the hands of a few. See T.Paine

The only way one could ‘fix’ copyright and still keep it (until such time as its brainwashed supporters die out) is to exempt individuals, i.e. copyright is reformed into a monopoly that constrains only unnatural persons – corporations.

A corporation is an artificial entity in the first place, having no natural rights, so subjecting such a legal artifice to the legal artifice of a monopoly offends only economists, not ethicists.

I think Stephan would find this a far better ‘solution’ than the half-baked “Let them share Elvis” idea of a shorter copyright term, which would simply result in far more draconian enforcement, more kids in prison, more families bankrupted, and everyone who suggested a shorter term being ‘the answer’ being treated like a pariah.

Remember, there are no corporations languishing in prison for copyright infringement. That’s not because they are upstanding citizens (able to resist the instinct to enjoy their natural liberty to share and build upon their own culture), but because they have no bodies.

drew Roberts said 2101 days ago :

As a practical matter if this gets any traction at all:

Bob makes lots of copies of Fred’s recorded song which has this new non-human only copyright protection.

Bob, being a human is exempt or cannot be sued for violating Fred’s copyright (word it better if you can) so all well and good.

Bob sells these copies at arms length to ABZ Music which puts them on the shelves of their stores nationwide.

In you proposed plan, can Fred sue ABZ Music?

all the best,


Crosbie Fitch said 2099 days ago :

Hi Drew,

Rick Falkvinge introduced it in A Better Definition of “Non-Commercial”

In figuring out how it works, it’s pretty straightforward. Copyright would work just like it does today, except that once all the infringing/culpable parties have been identified, the individuals (natural persons) are exempt from litigation (under copyright or related law).

Thus, in your example if ABZ Music is a corporation (neither a natural person, nor a group thereof) and Fred could sue ABZ Music today, then Fred can sue ABZ Music after this reform.

Simply by dint of being exempt doesn’t mean that illicit copies made by individuals cease to be illicit copies, nor does it mean that if it is today an infringement for corporations to commission or authorise individuals to produce illicit copies, it wouldn’t be after the reform.

Bear in mind that this reform is not intended to “make copyright work”. It would remain a legislative travesty, but at least it would be made ethical, ‘declawed’ against natural persons. Obviously, people who create companies or corporations (unnatural persons) to do business (or simply engage culturally) must still put up with their corporations being at risk of copyright litigation (with potential directorial liabilities).

This reform may get traction because while most people support copyright (making abolition unappealing), many may assume, or may be persuaded, that it should only apply to corporations – because they believe copyright is a mechanism for ensuring corporations pay long suffering artists for the commercial exploitation of their art.

Grandmothers collecting Karaoke CDs are not to be sent to prison (or even given suspended sentences). That inhumanity still happens if you shorten copyright’s term to 14+14 years.

Derek Bambauer on Copyright Greenwashing · 2124 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Derek Bambauer suggests the cartel’s attempt to frame copyright as ‘a natural right to be secured’ is greenwashing. I suggest it is because they’ve recognised I have a point – the US Constitution did not empower the granting of a privilege. See my argument with Karl

The US Constitution empowers Congress to SECURE the author’s (“solemnly adjudged to be a common law”) right to exclude others from their writings for limited times.

In 1787, in the New World and Old, most of those in the publishing industry were kidding themselves that a reproduction monopoly was a natural right and that the Statute of Anne (and various states’ legislative imitations) was a paltry legal recognition thereof. This is why James Madison (despite Jefferson’s suggestion to explicitly empower the granting of monopolies) knew he only needed to empower Congress to secure a right, in order to grant the monopoly of copyright.

By legislating the first US copyright act (Statute of Anne with minor edits) in 1790, most of those interested would accept this as the securing of a natural right (despite the fact that Madison & Jefferson knew damn well that copyright was the granting of a monopoly, not the securing of a right) – “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

Madison (who wanted copyright enacted) knew that a clause empowering Congress to grant monopolies would not have been ratified, hence his insertion of a clause that ‘secured a right’ – a pre-existing right (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”).

The point is, although the clause was APPARENTLY sufficient to enable Madison/Congress to grant copyright (by way of securing a common law right as others would assume) it was not ACTUALLY sufficient. Copyright is the grant of a monopoly and not at all law that secures a common law right.

So, Congress did not have power to grant copyright. It only had power to secure an author’s natural right to exclude others from their writings, i.e. our physical power to exclude burglars from copying our writings, such as our memoirs in our desk drawers (a natural right) – not to exclude those who purchase copies of those memoirs from us, from making and distributing their own copies (a privilege).

So, the cartel, conceding that the US Constitution empowered only the securing of a natural right, must now pretend that a reproduction monopoly is a natural right. And like James Madison, they will lead their audience to believe this without actually asserting it.

drew Roberts said 2101 days ago :

Seems the concept of no taxation without representation has fallen by the wayside a long time ago.




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